World Braille Day is celebrated annually on January 4th in honor of Louis Braille, the inventor of braille who was born on this day in 1809.
For about 200 years blind people have learned to read and write using braille. Braille is a tactile alphabet system of 6 dots in a 3X2 grid used to represent letters, numbers and symbols for most of the world’s languages. It plays an essential role in the lives of millions of blind people worldwide allowing them to access literature and study alongside their peers. Braille was invented by a young blind man, Louis Braille, when he was 15 years old (in 1824).
For blind students braille is the key to literacy and future employment; however, current copyright laws require schools to get permission to reproduce books in accessible formats such as braille or large print. If countries have no copyright exceptions for blind users this creates a major barrier for the education of blind and partially sighted children who may not get access to the books and learning materials they need.
Furthermore, braille books produced by organizations that serve blind people in one country, such as Peru cannot be shared with another country such as Argentina, for example. Each country needs to produce their own accessible books, creating needless duplication and increased costs. These costs could be reduced if braille textbooks could be shared across international borders.
Over a number of years, the World Blind Union (WBU) worked with other international organizations and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to create a treaty that would remove these barriers to the world’s knowledge. The result was the Marrakesh Treaty which was adopted by WIPO in June 2013.
The World Blind Union is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf, and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.
The WBU is grateful that these countries realize the importance of this treaty for their blind and print disabled citizens. However to make this treaty truly effective we need all countries to ratify it so that millions of books can be produced in braille and other accessible formats. Only countries that ratify the treaty can use it to benefit their blind citizens.